Thursday, November 3, 2016
1) Opening prayer
God of power and mercy,
only with your help
can we offer you fitting service and praise.
May we live the faith we profess
and trust your promise of eternal life.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 15,1-10
The tax collectors and sinners, however, were all crowding round to listen to Jesus, and the Pharisees and scribes complained saying, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'
So he told them this parable: 'Which one of you with a hundred sheep, if he lost one, would fail to leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, I have found my sheep that was lost."
In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no need of repentance.
'Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, I have found the drachma I lost."
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.'
• The Gospel today presents the first one of three parables united among themselves by one same word. It is a question of three things which were lost: the lost sheep (Lk 15, 3-7), the lost drachma (Lk 15, 8-10), and the lost son (Lk 15.11-32). The three parables are addressed to the Pharisees and to the Doctors of the Law who criticized Jesus (Lk 15, 1-3). That is, they are addressed to the Pharisee and to the Scribe or doctor of the Law which is in each one of us.
• Luke 15, 1-3: Those to whom the parables are addressed. The first three verses describe the context in which the three parables were pronounced: “At that time, the tax collectors and sinners were all crowding round to listen to him. The Pharisees and Scribes complained”. On one side there were the tax collectors and the sinners; on the other the Pharisees and the Doctors of the Law. Luke speaks exaggerating somewhat: “The tax collectors and the sinners were all crowding round to listen to Jesus”. There was something in Jesus which attracted them. It is the word of Jesus which attracts them (cf. Is 50, 4). They want to listen to him. This is a sign that they do not feel condemned, but rather they feel accepted by him. The criticism of the Pharisees and the Scribes is the following: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” When sending out the seventy-two disciples (Lk 10, 1-9), Jesus had ordered them to accept the excluded, the sick, the possessed (Mt 10, 8; Lk 10, 9) and to gather them for the banquet (Lk 10, 8).
• Luke 15, 4: The Parable of the lost sheep. The parable of the lost sheep begins with a question: “Which one of you with a hundred sheep, if he lost one, would fail to leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the missing one till he found it?” Before giving a response, Jesus must have looked around to see who was listening to him to see how they would have answered. The question is formulated in such a way that the response can only be a positive one: “Yes, he will go after the lost sheep!” And you, how would you answer? Would you leave the ninety-nine in the field to go and look for the only one which got lost? Who would do this? Probably, the majority would have answered: “Jesus, who among us? Nobody would do such an absurd thing. The proverb says: “Better one bird in the hand than one hundred flying around!”
• Luke 15, 5-7: Jesus interprets the parable of the lost sheep. Now, in the parable the shepherd does that which nobody would do: to leave everything and to go and look for the lost sheep. God alone can assume such an attitude! Jesus wants that we become aware, conscious of the Pharisee or the Scribe which is in each one of us, The Pharisees and the Scribes abandoned the sinners and excluded them. They would have never gone to look for the lost sheep. They would have allowed it to get lost in the desert. They preferred the ninety-nine. But Jesus places himself in the place of the sheep which got lost and, which in that context of the official religion, would fall into despair, without the hope of being accepted. Jesus makes them and us know: “If you feel that you are a lost sinner, remember that for God you are worth more than the other ninety-nine sheep. And in case that you are converted, know that there will be “greater joy in heaven for a sinner who is converted, than for ninety-nine just who do not need conversion”.
• Luke 15, 8-10: Parable of the lost drachma. The second Parable: "Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, I have found the drachma I lost. In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner’”. God rejoices with us. The angels rejoice with us. The parable serves to communicate hope to those who were threatened with despair because of the official religion. This message recalls what God tells us in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: "Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!” (Is 49, 16). “Since, I regard you as precious, since you are honoured and I love you!” (Is 43, 4).
4) Personal questions
• Would you go out to look for the lost sheep?
• Do you think that today the Church is faithful to this parable of Jesus?
5) Concluding prayer
Seek Yahweh and his strength,
tirelessly seek his presence!
Remember the marvels he has done,
his wonders, the judgements he has spoken. (Ps 105,4-5)